advertisement

Manziel battling playbook, Hoyer in first NFL camp

Thursday, July 31, 2014 | 7:26 p.m. CDT

BEREA, Ohio — Johnny Manziel has quickly learned his college days — on the field anyway — are over.

Less than a week into his first NFL training camp with the Browns, Manziel is going through the typical growing pains of any rookie quarterback.

He's doing all he can in the classroom to grasp Cleveland's offense, but the former Heisman Trophy winner is finding that once he's behind center, everything is moving faster than expected.

He's making mental and physical mistakes. The throws that came so easy for him at Texas A&M aren't there. He's not scrambling around and making defenders look silly. Not yet.

Johnny Football isn't dominating.

"I'm a rookie," he said. "I don't have all that stuff figured out."

Still, Manziel is making progress and staying close to Brian Hoyer in their competition to be Cleveland's starter.

Both quarterbacks have had their good and bad moments through five practices, and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said a contest that has divided Browns fans remains a tight race.

"I don't think one's any further in front than the other," Shanahan said.

Hoyer has taken all the snaps so far with Cleveland's first-team offense with Manziel working exclusively with the second-stringers. However, the Browns plan to give Manziel some reps with the starters "sooner than later."

Shanahan, who joined the Browns after four seasons in Washington, is eager for Hoyer or Manziel to seize the job, push into the lead and stay there. To this point, they've traded spots.

"As far as these five practices, it's usually one day one guy's ahead of the other," he said. "The next day, the other guy does a better job. I think it's been back and forth. It's something that I don't try to evaluate every day. I try to just coach both of them and get them better. Usually in my experience, when you've been in a situation like this, it usually plays out.

"We've been in a week. Hopefully as these preseason games go, as these practices go, I hope one of them will make the decision easy on us, one will just take off and start playing really well. Usually, the answer becomes pretty easy. If they make it tough, I hope it's because they're both playing really well."

Manziel acknowledged some "ups and downs" during his first week in camp. He claims not to be worried about whether he's made up ground on Hoyer, who as expected, has looked sharper than his younger teammate.

Manziel said his sole focus is on getting a handle on learning Cleveland's offense.

"I'm not worried about one or the other being ahead," he said. "I'm worried about me making sure I know what I need to know to get out here and execute and run the offense and not have any mistakes. Once I go through a couple of days with no mental errors or getting where I need to be every single time, then I'll feel a lot better.

"Right now, it's me versus the playbook and there's nothing else."

Manziel is finding it difficult to operate the same way he did in college. It's a whole different game in the pros with bigger, faster, stronger players.

Shanahan said Manziel is beginning to understand he has to be a different quarterback. He doesn't have a choice. There's not time to freelance or be creative and run around in the NFL. It's get the ball, make a decision and get rid of it.

"The test when you get to the NFL is a lot of times those defenses won't allow you to do that," he said. "They're going to keep you in the pocket. They're going to have their containment. So you can't always be looking for it. You've got to be able to do both, and when something's not there or when a defense gets out of their lanes, yeah, make them pay."

Shanahan doesn't want Manziel to abandon his play-making ways, but he must know when to improvise.

"You never want to take that away from him, but you've got to continue to develop as a quarterback because these defenses in this league, especially once you get into the regular season and coaches game plan for you, if they want to keep you in the pocket, they can," he said. "So you've got to be able to do both, and if you can do both, you can be a great one."

Notes: Wide receiver Josh Gordon missed practice after traveling to New York for his appeal hearing with the NFL. Gordon and his lawyers will meet with an arbitrator Friday morning to contest his possible suspension for a drug violation. ... Browns defensive tackle Billy Winn (hamstring) and offensive guard John Greco (unspecified) practiced for the first time in training camp. ... Browns coach Mike Pettine is thrilled to have S Jim Leonhard, who played for him in Baltimore, New York and Buffalo. "You look at him and think he should be doing your taxes and not playing safety for you," Pettine joked. "But he's an exceptional athlete, and he's found a way to survive for a long time in this league."


Like what you see here? Become a member.


Show Me the Errors (What's this?)

Report corrections or additions here. Leave comments below here.

You must be logged in to participate in the Show Me the Errors contest.


Comments

Leave a comment

Speak up and join the conversation! Make sure to follow the guidelines outlined below and register with our site. You must be logged in to comment. (Our full comment policy is here.)

  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Don't use language that makes personal attacks on fellow commenters or discriminates based on race, religion, gender or ethnicity.
  • Use your real first and last name when registering on the website. It will be published with every comment. (Read why we ask for that here.)
  • Don’t solicit or promote businesses.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report comment" link.

You must be logged in to comment.

Forget your password?

Don't have an account? Register here.

advertisements